What online communities can learn from conversation pits.
Ahhh conversation pits, spaces within spaces. Here’s a few takeaways from those old physical relics of the 60’s that we can apply to our modern digital communities — all except the shag carpet.
Conversation pits can be created anywhere and can be all shapes and sizes. They are distinct from the rest of the space, yet can also be re-absorbed into the larger spaces. Pits have potential to be shaped, customized and their layouts changed. They can accommodate large groups, or be used more intimately. However, be careful, no one wants to sit solo. They continuously change based on who is using it, and allows for freeform seating — you can sit and move around where-ever you want!
They are a self contained area designed to facilitate socializing. Visitors sit around the pit and look in, at each other. The conversation and direction is naturally inwardly focused, which sets the scene for more observational opportunities and intimacy. They also tend to have less distractions (not oriented around a TV) which further motivates engagement and interaction.
Form and function.
Yes these pits serve a social purpose, providing a space for more private conclaves, but they also provide an aesthetic role. When designing these spaces, they don’t focus entirely on function. Designing for form allows for more whimsical and fun experiences.
Transitional and welcoming.
The spaces are welcoming in visitors and guests from the public exterior face to the more private interior spaces and encourages “settling in”. To get into the space you likely have to take a few steps and transition into it — little a little ritual — as you change states physically, and maybe even mentally.